'Hypocrisy' in the Moreland Commission?

Posted at: 11/07/2013 8:40 PM
Updated at: 11/07/2013 10:10 PM
By: Steve Flamisch

NEW YORK CITY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo built in “hypocrisy” by appointing elected officials to the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, an ethics watchdog told NewsChannel 13.

Of the 25 people empanelled to find wrongdoing in the state legislature and elsewhere, ten are district attorneys and one is a county executive. They raise money to finance their campaigns, and now they are investigating campaign finance, among other things.

David Grandeau, former executive director of the state Temporary Commission on Lobbying, said their involvement raises serious questions.

"Are you raising money from anyone that's under investigation right now?" Grandeau asked. "Are you actively doing it? I ask that as a rhetorical question because I happen to know that they are."

Grandeau, an attorney who now runs a private consulting business, declined to elaborate.

The 11 elected officials serving on the Commission have raised a combined $10.9 million since 2010, according to statistics compiled for NewsChannel 13 by Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).

Moreland Commission Co-Chair Kathleen Rice, the Nassau County District Attorney, raised the largest amount -- close to $9 million -- in large part to finance her failed run for Attorney General in 2010, Mahoney’s review of campaign filings showed.

Rice, who was re-elected DA by a wide margin Tuesday, told NewsChannel 13 she has not solicited campaign contributions from anyone with business before the Commission.

"I have been very careful to ensure that our communications don't go to people that this Commission is reaching out to," Rice said following the Commission’s public hearing at the Javits Center on Oct. 28.

Rice added, "To the extent that the Commission reaches out to people who have supported me in the past, I have instituted a policy where I recuse myself from any consideration of that matter, and that's how we've taken care of those issues."

Co-Chair Bill Fitzpatrick, the Onondaga County District Attorney, said the fundraising issue was discussed soon after Gov. Cuomo formed the Commission in July.

"We've kind of informally agreed that we're going to be careful about that, so it doesn't raise any appearance of impropriety," Fitzpatrick said.

Grandeau, who calls the Moreland Commission "More Joke," remained skeptical. He said there is bound to be controversy when elected officials serve on ethics panels.

"Moreland cannot be successful when the very people that we have to put our faith in are involved in the very activities they're supposedly investigating," Grandeau said.

Gov. Cuomo was not available to comment for this story, a spokesman said.

Friday on NewsChannel 13 Live at 6:00 and Live at 10:00 on My4: A question of influence. Has Gov. Cuomo’s office has had too much influence on the Commission? Has the public had too little?